The leopard tree is a common sight around Brisbane and surrounding areas. A native of South America, councils and landscapers have found it to be a suitable street tree. Although it can grow very tall – up to 20 metres – it can be pruned to street tree dimensions – 10 to 12 metres. Plus, leopard trees are very resistant to drought and frost.
Description of the leopard tree
Leopard trees are named for the distinctive dappled grey and white pattern you see on their trunks, which is reminiscent of leopard print. It is caused by the tree shedding its bark.
They grow spikes of bright yellow flowers at the ends of their stems, which attract birds, bees and butterflies.
The foliage of the leopard tree is small, layered and feathery and dark green. The tree is semi-deciduous – its leaves go read in autumn and drop. The regrowth is pinkish red, maturing to dark green. The leaves also drop year-round. The seed pods are long and large, and unfortunately do present a tripping hazard on footpaths, and as they are very hard they can cause injury if caught in mowers and propelled out at high speed.
Many people are also allergic to leopard tree wood.
Leopard tree roots – nuisance value
Leopard tree roots are strong and invasive, so if you are thinking of planting one, don’t do it near the foundations of your house, underground cables or sewerage systems, or near concrete. The roots will spread quite far.
How to grow a leopard tree
Leopard trees will grow quickly if you give them fertile, well-drained soil and full sun. They will grow from seeds. You will need to hammer the very hard pods apart. After that, scarify the seeds and soak them. Then they will be ready to go in the soil and will sprout within a few days.
You can also propagate leopard trees from cuttings. Trim it while it is young, as this will help it develop one leader trunk.